(The Real) American Idols: Women Who are Saving the Earth

1/5 Art Streiber
THE NETWORK STAR: Melinda Kramer
28 Founding Director, Women's Earth Alliance, Oakland, CA

MOMMY FEARLESS "In 2002, while I was working for an environmental law firm in St. Louis, I met moms who were outraged about a local lead company. Their kids were sick, their homes were black with soot, and they had no way to get the company to listen. Studying in Kenya the following year, I helped women in one village fetch water and firewood--all day, every day. They couldn't take a break--not even to go to school; the village was counting on them. I started to think, 'If only they could all share their experiences.' From that moment, I had a new purpose."

FOREIGN EXCHANGE "In 2006, my team and I had handpicked 30 women from 26 countries to gather for the first conference of what's now the Women's Earth Alliance. With their help, I laid the foundation for womensearthalliance.org, an international network for women to meet and swap ideas."

SAFETY IN NUMBERS "We also host programs. This June, I'll be in Nairobi, Kenya, to help launch the first annual African Women and Water Conference. During the five-day event, 30 women from across the continent will learn how to build a clean water system in their village."

ACT NOW Repaint a school or replant native trees along rivers: Volunteer to help local do-gooders or post about your own projects on changents.com.
2/5 Art Streiber
THE HEAVY HITTER: Melissa Lin Perrella
34 Clean-Air Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council, Santa Monica, CA

This petite powerhouse--all 5'2" of her--is taking on the big, bad air polluters in southern california and getting them to clean up their act. (be afraid, guys. Be very afraid.)

NATURAL INSTINCTS "I've never considered myself an environmentalist. I drive a 2004 Honda, not a Prius. After law school, I worked at a corporate firm, but it wasn't fulfilling. When I thought about having kids, I wanted to be a mom who was doing something worthwhile with her life. So a few years later, when I came across an ad for the NRDC, I jumped on it."

POLLUTION SOLUTION "The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the largest polluters in Southern California, producing about 100 tons of smog per day. We're trying to get them to clean up their acts, and we've done that a number of ways--partly through litigation and also through public-policy initiatives we've encouraged them to adopt. Last year, we helped them create a plan [that begins this fall] to modernize a fleet of about 16,000 trucks to reduce emissions."

BAD AIR DAY "Kids who live close to seaports, freeways, and rail yards are showing up at doctors' offices with respiratory problems, so they're more susceptible to lung disease later in life. The California Air Resources Board has found that for every dollar spent on cleanup, the state saves about $5 in health care costs. How's that for incentive?"

AFTER-EFFECTS "Do I get discouraged? All the time. But I'm lucky: I get to see the impact of my work every day. How great to drive around L.A. and see the alternative-fuel buses and street sweepers that I helped put in place."

ACT NOW If you buy an Audi, a BMW, or a Jetta powered by a clean-diesel engine, fuel it with a biodiesel blend. Fill up at a station near you; find one at bio diesel.org

3/5 Art Streiber
THE WEB WARRIOR: May Boeve
24 Founding Member, Step It Up, San Francisco, CA

Who needs Facebook? Armed with just her trusty laptop, she's helped bring together more than 40,000 people--Al Gore included--to save the planet

GREASE IS THE WORD "Yeah, I'm one of those stubborn green people. I went to Middlebury College in Vermont for its envi-ron-mental program, even though my major was political science. During my sophomore year, some of us would meet to brainstorm ways to make a difference. In 2004, 12 of us took a semester off for a cross-country tour to high schools in a bus we'd converted to run on biodiesel made of veggie oil, methanol, and lye. Once, we stopped at a diner in Omaha and asked the hostess for oil out of the fryer tank. She gave us a puzzled look."

A BANNER DAY "Before graduation, the environmentalist Bill McKibben, who was a scholar-in--residence at Middlebury, asked us to work with him on a national Web-based campaign, Step It Up. In January 2007 we put out a call for people in all 50 states to host an event or rally in their community on April 14. We asked them to snap a photo holding a banner that read: STEP IT UP, CONGRESS: CUT CARBON 80 PERCENT BY 2050. More than 40,000 people signed on to our e-mail list---including Al Gore. We were blown away!"

DARE TO CARE "Right now, there's a carbon-reduction bill before Congress, and both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have included that goal in their platforms. The SIU team is also working on a global campaign to trim the carbon fat in the atmosphere [now about 385 parts per million of CO2 ] to a healthy 350." (To learn more, visit 350.org.)

ACT NOW Save the polar bears or protect a local park: when you sign the sierra club's e-petitions, the group will urge politicians to support bills based on your feedback. Go to sierraclub.org

4/5 Art Streiber
THE COAST GUARD: Jamie Bechtel, J.D., Ph.D.
35 Senior Director, Global Marine Partnership Fund, Seattle, WA

She's a mom, a surfer, a world traveler--and possibly the best friend a penguin ever had. Meet the woman who's helping to save the oceans

DEEP OBSESSION "I've always been drawn to the sea. When I was 6, I was watching Jacques Cousteau on TV and announced to my family: 'Someday you're going to see The Undersea World of Jamie Bechtel.'"

BEACH BUMMED "In 2002, after completing my Ph.D. in marine biology, I joined -Conservation International, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting wildlife. I'll never forget one trip I took for CI to a village in Indonesia: Coral rubble covered their beaches, and people were tossing dynamite into the water as a way to fish. When I spoke to the village leaders, I was relieved to learn that they recognized the problem--they just didn't know how to stop it."

THE BLUE CREW "In 2002 I put together a team to build seascapes--large regions of ocean that neighbor countries can work to protect. As the department head of the Global Marine Partnership Fund, I'm hoping to raise $100 million to build 10 new seascapes in developing countries by 2015. Three are already in place, including one in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Together they protect nearly two million square miles of marine life. It's our job to bring people together--from government officials to fishermen--and offer advice on the best ways to catch fish, eliminate debris in the water, and protect diving areas. The oceans are the stabilizers of the world. They affect our food, the air, even the weather. It scares me to think that they're disappearing."

ACT NOW Scuba and snorkel junkies: help track the health of coral reefs by taking a look at their shape and color. record your findings at projectaware.org/americas/english/coral-watch.

5/5 Art Streiber
THE FOOT SOLDIER: Betsy Blaisdell
31 Manager of Environmental Stewardship, Timberland, Stratham, NH

This enviro-scientist is helping one of the world's largest footwear companies to get its green on. (talk about your eco footprints.)

CLOSE TO HOME "When I was 17, my brother Ben was diagnosed with leukemia. Three years later, my dad learned he had skin cancer. Then, in 2003, my mom battled breast cancer. [All are in remission.] We suspected their illnesses might have been tied to a local power plant. Ever since, I've wanted to make sure something this terrible didn't happen to others."

HAPPY FEET "It's cool that Timberland has an environmental scientist on staff to address issues of corporate sustainability. That means we look out for the company's environmental impact, whether it's installing solar panels on rooftops or rethinking the manufacturing process. One program I helped create is the Green Index. It's like nutrition information for shoes: Instead of listing calories and fat, the label, which we use for several styles, gives a rating that reflects the product's environmental impact--from 0 (the smallest eco-footprint) to 10 (the largest). It helps customers know where their dollar is going and keeps the company on its toes, too. Right now, Timberland is the only company doing this, but we're working with other outdoor-industry brands to create universal eco-guidelines for the suppliers we all use."

EYES ON THE PRIZE "Another cool thing: Timberland's incentive programs, like $3,000 for employees who buy hybrids. My long-term goal is to send our greenest employees on an Earthwatch expedition to do environmental field research. I'm also starting a company organic garden. Thirty people have already signed up to get their hands dirty!"

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